Most ordinary teens work part-time at their local McDonalds but as the owner of the blog – nothing vanilla, you would expect that the words ‘would you like fries with that’ were never uttered by me. Nope, not I. Whilst all my friends cleaned McDonalds pickles from ceilings and scanned groceries each week I had a range of interesting jobs that shaped me into who I am today – a crazy writer!
I am not sure why, but when you’re desperate to make some cash, telemarketing jobs are readily available to even the most horribly unqualified and are written in such a way that promises that even the most incompetent amongst us will earn loads and within a few short months hit the top 100 most wealthy list. When I rang up to make an enquiry about an ad in the paper, I was told I had a ‘very interesting voice’ and was asked to come in and start the next day. When I got off the phone I realised that I had forgotten to ask about the product but I assumed it was going to be something normal, how bad could it be?
The next morning I made my way into a massive room lined with rows of tables, chairs and 40 or more people in the room speaking on the phone. My boss directed me to the front row and dropped a script and a computer printout of at least 100 phone numbers in front of me and instructed that I read exactly from the script. That was the beginning and end of my induction and training. My boss made his way to his desk to ‘watch over’ his flock – conveniently a metre away from me.
The script read:
Good morning or Good afternoon (smile when speaking as smiling will ease the tension between you and the customer).
My name is (insert name and keep smiling) and I represent (insert company name and keep smiling). We are committed to serving our customers with quality fertilizer products…(Oh Christ – I am selling SHIT!).
Who is the person in your household that maintains the garden, may I speak to them please?
Briefly highlight the features of our product. The purpose here is to get your customers so excited about the product that they will want to immediately buy from you. (Is this a sick joke people, who is going to get excited over SHIT!??).
Your calling script must include an offer they can’t refuse. Concentrate on pointing out at least 3 features, then follow it up with 3 benefits. First benefit:
1. Our fertiliser has a unique plant food that is organically based and formulated to meet the specific requirements of a wide range of plants – your home garden will flourish….
I put my script down, my hands shaking and sweat is rolling down my cheek - there is no way in hell I am going to pull this off – especially with the added pressure of having my boss sitting metres away listening to my cringe making spiel. Then it hits me – I am literally going to be a shit talker.
So I take a deep a breath, pick up the phone and make my first call. I get half way through my script before I realise the person on the other line is a teenage girl who, clearly embarrassed for me, is politely listening before equally politely declining my wonderful shit.
My next 20 phone calls are a dead end. It’s actually a myth that most people are rude to telemarketers, the majority are friendly enough, but are simply not interested, and even less are interested in buying manure.
By my 30th call, I decide to change tactics – my routine clearly isn’t working so I ad-lib thinking my initiative will make a sale and clearly impress my boss. I am mistaken. My magnum opus call fails to deliver and my boss is not impressed with my new sales pitch. ‘Katherine, all new staff MUST stick to the script, we only allow the experienced telemarketers to speak freely’. So I revert back to my shitty sales pitch in order to sell (or not sell) my shitty shit.
And so this was how my quick career in telemarketing came to an end. I lasted 8 hours and when I tell people this story they are quite amazed that I actually lasted that long.
Please smile when sweeping
When a large toy chain company first came to town in the 90s I was first to jump on board and applied for a job as a casual staff member. Being a new age American company, it was clear that the management approach was going to be fairly un-Australian and in true Disney Land style we were expected to be jolly and theatrical. Our sunny disposition was expected at all times–even before the store opened.
Weeks before the grand opening, we worked hard to transform the giant empty floor space into a toy haven, hammering, building, cleaning and toy stocking. The company wanted us to feel all fuzzy and warm because we were such a big part of putting together the store.Yep apparently we were one big happy nuclear American family, which also seemed to resemble a few cults I’ve read about.
One of my particular jobs during pre-opening was sweeping, nothing particularly demanding about sweeping is there? Well that is where you would be wrong my friends. My manager pulled me aside one day and told me that she wanted to speak to me in private, the stern tone in her voice set me desperately recalling my recent actions for some possible wrong doing- maybe I had stacked the barbies with the cabbage patch kids by mistake? But no apparently my crime was much worse.
‘Katherine, I am worried about your attitude lately’.
Silence from me.
‘I have been watching you sweep and you don’t seem particularly enthusiastic. We expect all our staff to be enthusiastic at all times – even before we open to the general public. You really need to smile more often, if you can’t smile now than how will you manage to smile when we open?’
I was incredulous, I had no idea how to respond, although somehow the words ‘go f*ck’ yourself seemed quite appropriate whilst delivering a perfect kung fu style kick to her head. However, my grade 5 teacher hadn’t given me the ‘Manners Plus’ award for a reason so I offered a weak smile, muttered something about trying to improve my ‘smiling whilst sweeping’ skills in the future and walked out of her office with a face no doubt the colour of beetroot.
The next day I came down with a ‘mysterious’ illness, and phoned it to say I would not be coming into work. But I never turned up for work again, It was the end of my toy career, and I knew that I could never be part of a cult employer again.
The strawberry donut caper
Thanks to family connections myself and my step sister Eff landed a job in the production line of a baked goods factory during our high school mid-break. For two straight weeks we packed and boxed Christmas puddings, clocking on at 5.00 am and finishing at 5.00pm. However, working at the factory had its advantages, every lunch time the staff were allowed to sample some of the donuts and pastries in the tea room. The strawberry iced donuts were my favourite whilst Eff preferred the Danish pastries sprinkled with freshly ground nuts. Speed was critical because the freebies went fast, so Eff and I had a pretty simple plan. As soon as the lunch bell went off, we would tear down two flights of stairs to the tea room, beating out the older slower workers.
Then one day it happened. I was dreaming about my strawberry iced donut when the lunch bell sounded. I missed it but Eff snapped me out of my reverie only to find we were behind the rest of the staff who had nearly reached the stair well. ‘I will break you’, I snarled at an old Greek woman who worked in the frozen pie section. But no breaking was required; with youth on our side we ducked and weaved around the crowds until we made it to the stairs just ahead of the crowds. In my haste to feast on donuts I tripped on the stairs and tumbled down two flights until I came to a halt on my bottom. All was lost- it was clear that Eff would be missing out on her nuts and my donut would probably be snapped up by the old Greek women from the nut section (karma my friends).
This was my first crisis in the work force – a sore ass sustained by failing to achieve a deliverable – no pink iced donut for me.
Would you like sauce with your wedding ring?
My steady income came from a weekend job in a bakery where I happily served customers pies, sausage rolls, éclairs, cream buns and pastadura loaves. The customers were predominately Greek and Italian and I am allowed to say this because I have a Greek background -the older Greek customers were the most annoying!
They would point at the various loaves of ‘Karveli’ and grunt (I got used to understanding what they wanted by the tone of their grunts, loud for a sliced, quiet for a unsliced and so on). But they would also choose the loaves based on their sizes and if one loaf appeared smaller than the other they would ask for a discount!
We tucked orders away for our regular customers and one particularly elderly customer Con would come in every Sunday for his wholemeal loaf sliced thickly for toast. Occasionally I worked on the weekdays during my school holidays and Con had a regular order on Tuesday, same loaf as the weekends but he did not want it sliced. I didn’t know this so when Con came past on Tuesday I gave him his bag of sliced bread and off he went..half an hour later he stormed back into the bakery – he was enraged beyond belief and demanded to see my boss Stan. The bakery was quite busy so I continued to serve the customers while Con proceeded to explain to Stan how incompetent and evil I was. Had I missed something here? This was just a loaf of wholemeal bread that I had accidently sliced- imagine I had given him a white loaf instead, I am sure he would have gone to the police to lay a formal complaint.
But we also had nice regulars as well. Every weekend, George used to come and say hello. Now George had been involved in a serious car accident a few years prior which left him with a visible disability and speech problems. Most people could not understand George but I had become used to his way of speaking so we could carry out a decent conversation. After 9 months of regular visits from George, he came in one hectic Saturday when I was in the middle of serving pies to a group of hungry tradesmen. George desperately wanted to speak to me but I could not spare the time so he patiently waited in the queue. Finally it was time to serve George, I thought he might want his usual curry pie with sauce but George wanted to ask me for something different today. ‘I have something for you Katherine,’ with a small nervous smile he continued, ‘it belonged to my mother and I really want you to have it’.
And there it was, George presented me with his mother’s wedding ring and proposed to me – right there in the bakery amidst 20 or so customers. I froze with one pair of tongs in one hand and a brown paper bag in the other whilst George stood there beaming with his usual spittle of saliva hanging by the side of this mouth. What to say? At the age of 19 I was not exactly the pinnacle of sensitivity but I had enough decency to let him down gently. ‘George, um..er.. well, that ring is just beautiful and I am not sure that your mum would want me to have it and um… I think I am a little young to get married and well the thing is… ah.. I have to keep working now but see you next week huh?’
My first marriage proposal – amongst the chocolate éclairs, custard tarts, meat pies and loads of customers!
So there you have it four stories about my previous employment history – what an impressive curriculum vitae. Oh yes and there was one time when I worked as a waitress in a fancy restaurant and spilled red wine all over a customer’s white mink coat…